After a bestselling and acclaimed diversion into fiction, Chuck Klosterman, author of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, returns to the form in which he’s been spectacularly successful with a collection of essays about our consumption of pop culture and sports.
Q: What is this book about?
A: Well, that’s difficult to say. I haven’t read it yet—I’ve just picked it up and casually glanced at the back cover. There clearly isn’t a plot. I’ve heard there’s a lot of stuff about time travel in this book, and quite a bit about violence and Garth Brooks and why Germans don’t laugh when they’re inside grocery stores. Ralph Nader and Ralph Sampson play significant roles. I think there are several pages about Rear Window and college football and Mad Men and why Rivers Cuomo prefers having sex with Asian women. Supposedly there’s a chapter outlining all the things the Unabomber was right about, but perhaps I’m misinformed.
Q: Is there a larger theme?
A: Oh, something about reality. “What is reality,” maybe? No, that’s not it. Not exactly. I get the sense that most of the core questions dwell on the way media perception constructs a fake reality that ends up becoming more meaningful than whatever actually happened. Also, Lady Gaga.
Q: Should I read this book?
A: Probably. Do you see a clear relationship between the Branch Davidian disaster and the recording of Nirvana’s In Utero? Does Barack Obama make you want to drink Pepsi? Does ABBA remind you of AC/DC? If so, you probably don’t need to read this book. You probably wrote this book. But I suspect everybody else will totally love it, except for the ones who totally hate it.
In his new essay collection, author and cultural commentator Klosterman (Chuck Klosterman IV) parallels Kurt Cobain with David Koresh, Weezer with Warner Herzog and Ralph Nader, and posits a future in which Unabomber Ted Kaczynski's manifesto is viewed as "the most prescient work of the 1990s." In short, there is something to excite and/or enrage any reader engaged with popular culture in the last 20 years. One of few cultural essayists to enjoy a wide readership, Klosterman's Lester Bangs-lite approach is frequently engaging, if scattershot; too often, he engages in fleeting pop-culture references that evoke the laziest kind of critical cred-grubbing (a typical throwaway jab at indie band TV on the Radio leaves readers with no idea what criticism, if any, Klosterman is leveling). Klosterman even neglects to engage some of his subjects on their artistic merits, such as Nirvana's final album, In Utero: after making much of the disc's pre-release hype, he all but refuses to discuss his reaction as a listener. Even with the inclusion of an article on football (which he admits will turn off "40 percent" of his readers), Klosterman never ventures outside of his comfort zone; though he thrives on challenging his readers, he fails to challenge himself.